Worst decline in Indian tiger population since 1973?? Or is it?

If you want to see a tiger in the wild, I would not wait another 20 years. OTH, there are doubts about the counting methodology employed, read on…

Worst decline in tiger population since 1973: census- Hindustan Times

Tiger census estimates from Central India indicate a fall of tiger population by over 50 per cent, worst decline since first government census in 1973.

Tiger number appears to have fallen by 61 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 57 per cent in Rajasthan and 40 per cent in Rajasthan, according to the estimates released by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) on Wednesday.

Initial estimate of 16 of the 28 tigers reserves show that there are only 464 tigers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra as compared to 1,006 in 2002. Final census is expected by end of 2007.

India has 29 tiger reserves. Apparently, most of the population losses are outside the reserves where there is mush more tiger-human interaction.

Dr YV Jhala, institute’s chief scientist, said, “In general, the situation is not good. I cannot stress more the importance of removal of anthropogenic (people) influence on tiger population. Tigers and people cannot co-exist”.

I like that, “Tigers and people cannot co-exist”, probably true, if simplistic, they’re both super top level predators. Habitat pressure in India is probably the single largest issue with development pressure and a burgeoning population.

One important thing to note.

The institute disbanded the pugmark identification methodology for tiger census and adopted more scientific approach of camera capturing, scent and pugmark analysis and tracking movement of tigers using satellite tracking.

When you change counting methodologies, it is hard to compare population estimates. This note and this Science article (sell kidney to read) indicate that pugmark identification was notorious for over counting tigers, even missing entire population collapses, so who knows whether we are seeing a decline, or finally, a more accurate count? Either way, the numbers are depressing, and do not bode well for the tiger.

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